The Struggle and Answers

This winter I have been struggling to hit paces that I easily hit months ago, my body hasn't been recovering great (which I related to getting older), my breathing is off (which I related to asthma) and energy isn't there. I kept thinking this was all the long winter getting to me and long work days, dark mornings, more training, etc, etc. Excuses and frustration! I was due for thyroid labs so I thought maybe this, but I decided to request additional labs to look at anemia. I got some push back since 1 year ago my hemoglobin was fine so she insisted it couldn't be anemia...


Fast forward a few days to lab results...

  • TSH is great it is amazing how my thyroid has regulated itself after my celiac diagnosis (still on meds but no more constant increase).
  • Hemoglobin at the low end of normal but no red flag here again
  • Ferritin of 5! While normal is 12-150 most endurance athletes need 100-120 at least to feel good and perform well!
  • Iron of 30! Again normal 35-180 but higher levels work better for endurance athletes.
  • Iron Binding and saturation also indicate iron deficiency anemia. 
So there we are, finally I know why my running and recovery is tough! Now that I know this it all makes sense. The trouble with breathing well, fatigue, ear ringing, low energy, poor recovery. It all fits. Now with 8 weeks to go can I recover well enough to race at Grandmas?

Yes I am vegetarian and I try to consume plant based high iron foods and look at things like absorption. I was previously on a iron supplement but got out of the habit. Almost a month ago I got these labs and start twice daily iron (can't do 3 a day due to thyroid medications).

How to increase iron as a vegetarian/vegan
  • Caffeine (coffee and tea) block absorption so separate supplement and iron rich foods from these 
  • drinks
  • Dairy blocks absorption, again separate or avoid all together
  • Take Vit C with iron, this aids in absorption
  • Eat plant based high iron foods
    • Lentils
    • Beans - Kidney, black beans and chickpeas are great
    • Leafy Greens - Spinach, Kale, Parsley 
    • Quinoa
    • Blackstrap Molases
    • Tofu and edamame
    • Oats
    • Seeds - Chia, Pumpkin, Sesame and Sunflower are great
Do you take an iron supplement as an endurance athlete? 

1 month check in a few days, crossing my fingers things are moving in the right direction.


  1. Oh man, glad you're able to find an answer as to why you weren't feeling 100%! I get my labs done regularly as well and haven't had to take iron. Although I constantly make sure that my diet is balanced and I check in to how I'm feeling!

    1. Thanks! Balanced diet is key to feeling well, and listening to your body is huge, keep at it!

  2. I'm so glad you got an answer! It always goes to show that one lab marker doesn't always tell the story. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, none of the inflammatory markers in my blood (sed rate, CRP, ANA) were positive. But the more specific tests, rheumatoid factor, CCP, and Vectra-D,, were off the charts.

    Good luck with your recovery and running!

    1. So frustrating when things aren't always easy t figure out, which is why we need to keep advocating for ourselves when something just doesn't seem right.
      Good luck to you as well :)


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